Design flaw led European navigation satellites into wrong orbits, inquiry finds

Features Associated Press

An investigation is blaming a design flaw for the inaccurate deployment of two satellites intended to bolster Europe's answer to the GPS.

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The results of the inquiry, released Wednesday by launch company Arianespace, said the error happened about 35 minutes into the Aug. 22 liftoff, when the satellites were sent into the wrong orbits. The inquiry found that a line of cold helium froze a crucial chemical compound in a nearby feed line.

The European Union hopes to have its 30-satellite Galileo navigation network operating fully by 2020. The European Space Agency says it hopes Galileo will provide greater precision for satellite navigation systems.

The inquiry found that the flaw in the fourth stage of the launch could be corrected in time for a planned December Soyuz mission.